Inventory numbers: different periods, different decisions

We have recently received a group of students from the Master of Arts in Museum Studies from the Johns Hopkins University, with whom we chatted about numerous topics of the museum.  Among the topics there arose one question that in that moment we didn’t know how to answer, and it left us thoughtful!

The Wait (Margot). París 1901. MPB 4271. Plandiura acquisition | Enlarged detail of the numbers in red ink

One of the students asked us the following:

“I had a question about the cataloguing of some of the oils in the collection. There were quite a few with the accession number recorded in the lower right side in what appears to be red ink? I was just wondering if anyone would be willing to share any information about that and how your institution has changed their collection methods over time?” V.K.

We asked Anna Fàbregas, from the museum Registry, if she could explain the reason for the numbers in red ink.

The pieces registered in red ink are those which come from Plandiura (1932) and from the Garriga Roig Legacy (1953) acquisitions. The works went on to form part of the collections of the art museums of Barcelona and therefore the registry number was put there by the people charged with registry using the criteria in force at that time.

The divan and The Embrace, other works from the collection Plandiura

Over the years the system has changed (not the numbering itself, which has remained invariable), according to the criteria in each moment, but in general we can say that before, it was done using irreversible techniques, and currently it is increasingly tried to do it so that they are.  Above all we avoid affecting the surface of the work so as not to interfere with the work of the artist.

It is however true that there are some general criteria for the cataloging and inventory of the works, and it is also true that each institution applies its own system.  Since the foundation of the Museu Picasso in 1963, the works have always been registered following the criteria that the inventory number never interferes in the viewing of the work.  Furthermore, the number also gives, in many cases, information about where the works come from or their typology.

Museum’s newsroom

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